Two years ago today my youngest son was recovering from his second invasive brain surgery. This time, to place a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt into the right rear side behind his ear, to constantly drain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the ventricles in the brain where it is produced, into his abdominal cavity via a catheter tube running internally down his neck. This device, though far from perfect in its design, with something like a 50% fail rate in the first year or two after placement, is a life-saver for children with hydrocephalus. It stops the fluid, which has trouble draining naturally, from building to the point where it squashes the brain against the skull, leading to brain damage and eventually (if left untreated) death.
Way back then, when he was just three months old, we were amazed at how resilient he was and how he had bounced back from his first brain surgery like a champion, but there were so many unknowns about how much his conditions would impact him as he grew and developed.
I think it could be said that Romans 8 may well be the most glorious, joy-inspiring, hope-giving chapter in the book containing the clearest and most comprehensive treatment of the Christian gospel message in the entire Bible. It’s hard to choose favourites, and of course we must let all of scripture speak rather than honing in on one chapter or book in isolation, but I have certainly found in my own walk with God that the truths contained in Romans 8 and 9 in particular have been a balm that breaks through the difficulties and sorrows of life, shining a light that causes our sufferings to pale in comparison to the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17), and helping us to face them in faith and with joy and hope.
In this wonderful book by Australian pastor and author Ray Galea, the reader is taken on a journey through this chapter, section by section, beginning with our life in the Spirit as believers (including the incredible declaration of ‘no condemnation’ for those who are in Christ), our status as heirs with Christ as a result of our adoption as children of God, the way in which God works through and in the midst of our suffering – with the Spirit interceding for us in our darkest moments – for our good and for God’s glory, to the assurance we can have thanks to God’s unbroken chain of redemption, and concluding with the amazing reminder that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God.
Humble Calvinism is a relatively short, very well constructed overview of the five points of Calvinism, with a distinct focus on how they should cause those of us who subscribe to them to live, act, and evangelise as believers.
Having come to Reformed theology around five years ago, one of the first books I read at that time was John Piper’s Five Points Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace – a book I would highly recommend to this day. Jeff’s book Humble Calvinism reminds me of that volume in its pastoral approach to explaining and applying the five points to the life of the reader.
The Imperfect Disciple has been sitting in my library for some time, and it is the first book I have ever owned (and now read) by Jared Wilson. When I finally got to reading it recently I found myself asking, “why on earth did I wait so long to read this?”
The book is written conversationally, making it highly accessible, and yet there are so many brilliant turns of phrase it feels masterful! This relatively informal style doesn’t distract, it helps you settle in, it connects you to the message – and goodness knows it is a message we all need to hear.
In this very timely, Bible-saturated yet succinct volume titled ‘Coronavirus and Christ’, John Piper’s wise pastoral heart and masterful application of the ancient truths of God’s word to a sick and dying postmodern world once again come to the fore. He shows us how to see the glory of God and the goodness of God and the sweetness of God’s sovereignty in and through the COVID-19 coronavirus, he helps us understand some of the billion things God is doing through this current situation – which is not outside of His control and plan – and he helps us focus on the call of Christ presented to us in the coronavirus… a call to repent and believe in Him, a call to stay awake because we do not know the day or hour when He will return, and a call to love and serve and pray for others during this significant time of suffering. Finally, a reminder of God’s ability to use the coronavirus to serve his global mission, and a pastoral prayer, offer much needed perspective and give voice to those who may not not always know how to pray as we ought during this global pandemic.
In short, I highly recommend this book to all believers seeking to think biblically through the COVID-19 pandemic, and to those looking to find comfort, peace, wisdom and joy in God in the midst of it.
Visit DesiringGod.org and download the free eBook or audiobook.
With the world in what seems like an unprecedented level of turmoil thanks to a threat that in and of itself knows no cultural or geographical limits, I’ve found myself asking, as many of us probably have, where do I fit in this situation, what do I think about it, what can I do about it, and how should I interpret these events in light of my beliefs and convictions? It raises existential questions about living vs existing, about mistakes made by the human race, and about the nature of God and how He relates to us as creatures living in His world… and by extension how we should relate to Him, especially in times of trouble. Through all the negative news reports, the empty supermarket shelves, the toilet paper shortages (Australians are crazy for toilet paper now, and it makes little sense as to why), the heightened societal anxiety, the media hype, the talk of ‘herd immunity’ and vaccines and lengthy time frames, the talk of ‘flattening the curve’ with good hygiene and social distancing – what has stuck out to me most prominently is that we as humans do not like one thing in particular… there is one thing we will do our absolute best to avoid before collectively freaking out when we realise our best isn’t good enough and it’s unavoidable: the reality that you and I are not in control of our lives, at least not in an ultimate sense.
I’ll be honest, the whole ‘New Years’ thing is tiresome to me in some ways. I know what you’re probably thinking – “of course you’re tired, it’s straight after Christmas and almost everyone is tired after Christmas”, but I mean more than that, at least, I think I do…
A year ago today I…
A year ago today I had just been through one of the most stressful experiences of my life.
A year ago today I was sitting in a hospital room with my wife, talking about our new baby boy and deciding on his name.
A year ago today I was leaving that same hospital room periodically to check on my brand new baby in the Special Care Baby Unit, hoping his oxygen levels would stabilise, and that the raft of negative outcomes and worst case scenarios we’d been asked to prepare for would not eventuate.
As the 7th of June approaches, my wife and I prepare to celebrate the birthday of our second son. He is a beautiful, mostly happy baby who is gradually learning to interact with a world that he isn’t really able to see as a result of damage to his visual cortex from a Grade IV intra-ventricular haemorrhage… and yet he still finds joy. Over the last twelve months I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve written a lot – from the shock of discovering his medical condition through the stages of processing what it all meant and receiving updates from various doctors, through two brain surgeries and three fluid taps to the confirmation of cerebral palsy on his left side and the likelihood that his vision is very low, if it is there at all – through all of this the (active) sovereignty of God really has been, as Charles Spurgeon put it, ‘the pillow on which the Christian rests their head’. Until now though, I haven’t written about something else that happened on the day our son was born. In some ways it was small, it probably only lasted 30 seconds, and yet it is burned into my brain and still boggles my mind. It was something one of the midwives said while we were waiting to go to theatre… but more on that soon…
“His optic nerve is pale and visual activity is poor. The next step is more testing. I’m sorry I can’t give you a more definitive answer right now, but I’ll see you in four months time.”
These [paraphrased] words were not what we were wanting to hear when we took our almost five month old son to an ophthalmology appointment yesterday, but reality doesn’t care about what you want to hear. We have known ever since the diagnosis of hydrocephalus from a grade four bleed in the brain while in the womb that there was likely, medically speaking, to be some effects from the internal brain injuries during the developmental stages. The neonatologists even went as far as to say there was a high likelihood that the resulting impact would be fairly severe, given the serious nature of what occurred somewhere between 20 and 32 weeks. I remember asking about whether his hearing or sight would be impacted on the day when they broke the news to us about the likelihood of hemiplegic cerebral palsy on the left side of his body. I remember the horrible feeling when they said “we don’t know”. Fast forward several months. He has been through so much and bounced back from all his surgeries so well that it became tempting to think perhaps we were over the biggest hurdles. The last couple of weeks though, I’ve felt squarely back in the land of many unknowns as far as what lies ahead.